Fifteen-year-old Lisa Smith took a deep breath before answering the phone.
“Yes, this is she.”
“This is Dr. Newcomb from the animal shelter. I’m calling to thank you again for stopping by today and applying for the job opening here. I really enjoyed meeting you, and it’s obvious you’re a very intelligent young woman with a real love for animals. But, I’m afraid I’ve decided to give the position to Katie Mansfield instead. She’s a bit older than you are, and of course her family owns all those animals. I hope you’re not too disappointed by this. Perhaps in a couple years when Katie goes away to college, you can take her place.”
Lisa mumbled a “thank you” before hanging up, but it was obvious she hadn’t meant it. The job at the animal shelter was nothing special by most people’s standards — mainly just feeding and grooming the animals and cleaning cages for minimum wage – but for Lisa it might have been the first step toward her goal of becoming a veterinarian.
Lying awake in bed that night, she cursed Dr. Newcomb for not realizing how much the job meant to her. Sure, Katie Mansfield’s family had more animals than Lisa’s, but the expensive horses and pure-breed dogs had more to do with the Mansfields’ need to show off their wealth than it did with any real affection Katie had for animals.
“All those animals my ass,” thought Lisa as she buried her head in the pillow. “Katie just wanted the job to keep me from getting it! With her baby-blue eyes, pearly-white teeth and long chestnut hair, she’s about as likely to get her hands dirty around animals as she is to get her head shaved!”
It was then that the idea came to her.
“Certainly Lisa, we’d love to have you as a volunteer, and I’m sure Katie would be more than happy to show you how to groom the dogs,” replied Dr. Newcomb when Lisa phoned him the next day. “Come by around 6:00 PM this Thursday. Katie’s working alone that night, but I’ll let her know you’re coming and ask her to show you around.”
“Sounds good to me!”
“Fine then, 6:00 it is. Oh, and Lisa… I just have to tell you how impressed I am that you called. I know you were disappointed yesterday when I said you didn’t get the job, and I know how awkward it might be for you to work alongside Katie, but you’re showing me a lot by volunteering to help out here at the shelter. I’ll certainly keep this in mind when the position becomes available again.”
“Thanks Dr. Newcomb, but it’s my pleasure really. After all, it’s for the good of the animals.”
“Oh… Hi Lisa,” said Katie in her usual snotty tone when Lisa arrived at the animal shelter Thursday night. “I was just about to start grooming the dogs. Come watch if you want.”
Lisa could tell from Katie’s less-than-enthusiastic reception that the 17-year-old wanted her there about as much as she wanted leprosy.
“Is Dr. Newcomb still here?”
“No. He left already, but he asked me to babysi… er, I mean accompany you around the shelter and show you what it is we do here.”
Lisa bit her lip and tried hard not to show how much she hated this bitch named Katie. The babysitting remark was bad enough, but then to use the phrase ‘what it is we do here’ after being on the job for less than a week seemed to Lisa to be the absolute pinnacle of pretension.
“This is the grooming room,” Katie said blandly as she led Lisa into a large room with a stainless steel table in the middle. “We groom the dogs when they come in, then about every 6 or 8 weeks after that to keep them looking adoptable.”
“Will you be grooming any of them tonight? I’d really like to see how it’s done.” Being nice to Katie – even if it was just fake – made Lisa want to puke.
“Yeah, I’ve got about five of them to do. Have a seat and stay out of my way while I go get them.”
Again Lisa bristled at Katie’s demeanor, but she knew she had to stay calm until an opportunity presented itself to enact her plan.
It only took a couple minutes for Katie to return, trailing five dogs behind her on a single, common leash. Tying four of them to a post in the adjoining hallway, she brought an Old English Sheepdog with her into the grooming room and hoisted him up onto the table.
Watching Katie open a draw and pull out a pair of electric dog shears, Lisa felt it was time for another of her kiss-ass questions. “What kind of clippers do you think work best?”
“Listen Lisa, let’s cut the shit, okay? The only reason I’m even putting up with you tonight is because Dr. Newcomb said I have to. Just sit there and don’t bother me, okay? I couldn’t care less whether you learn about what we do here. Why don’t you just get over the fact that I got hired and you didn’t? There’s plenty of other jobs in town for a little 15-year-old like you. Have you tried McDonald’s?”
Lisa thought about a comeback, but decided the best thing to do was just to let Katie begin grooming the dogs. Everything hinged on her grooming the dogs.
It didn’t even take an hour for Katie to get through the first four dogs. Lisa sat quietly simmering the whole time, watching both the table and the floor around it fill with thick clumps of dog hair. Katie showed none of Lisa’s love for animals, moving from one frightened dog to another without so much as a reassuring pat on the head as she ran the clippers over their fur.
“Katie? Where’s the bathroom?”
“Down the hall and to the left. Oh, and do me a favor… when you see the front door on your way there, exit through it and go home!”
Lisa slowly got up from her chair and waited for Katie to turn her back to her. As soon as she did, Lisa grabbed a broken broom handle she’d spotted shortly after sitting down. Raising it high, she brought it crashing down with all her might upon the back of Katie’s head, smiling broadly as her nemesis dropped like a rock to the floor.
“Ooooo…” groaned Katie as she began to regain consciousness, “what happened?”
“That golden retriever you were grooming jumped off the table as soon as you turned your back. He must’ve bumped you pretty hard – all I saw was the back of your head hit the counter on your way down. Boy, that sure is a nasty bump you have there!”
Katie grimaced in pain as Lisa touched the wound. Reflexively she tried to push the hand away, but realized for the first time she couldn’t move her arms. Looking down, she saw that both her hands and feet had been bound tightly with rope.
“Shut up Katie,” replied Lisa matter-of-factly as she stood up and slowly began to circle the room, “just shut the fuck up! You don’t deserve to have this job, you know that? You don’t like animals any more than you like me. I watched how you were grooming those dogs – no compassion, no attempt to put them at ease. Normally something like that would really piss me off, but I’ll tell you what I’m gonna do. I’m gonna give you a little grooming lesson, only I’m not gonna use the dogs.”
Lisa continued circling the room, loving the look of fear now spreading over Katie’s face.
“You see, Katie, the key to working with animals is to try to put yourself in their position. Imagine yourself a captive audience… like you are now… and imagine someone coming at you with a pair of clippers like this.”
“Don’t you dare come near me with those things you little psycho!” spat Katie as the clippers suddenly appeared in Lisa’s hand. She knew there was no freeing herself from the ropes, but still she felt she had to do something.
“There you go… that’s the kind of fear I’m talking about,” replied Lisa coyly as she continued circling Katie.
“You’ll never get away with this, you little shit! Not only will Dr. Newcomb ban you from ever coming here again, but my parents will personally see to it that you get sent to Juvenile Hall for this. But maybe that’s what you want, isn’t it Lisa? You’d probably like for all those nasty girls at Juvy Hall to gang up on you the way you’re ganging up on me now!”
“Hey, like I said, it was the golden retriever who knocked you down,” lied Lisa. “But then, as I saw these long chestnut tresses of yours lying there on the floor beside all that dog hair, I thought about how it might make you a better groomer if you felt a little empathy for your clientele.”
“Fuck you… you know what you can do with your emp…”
“Alright, I think I’ve heard enough out of you,” said Lisa calmly as she reached down, grabbed a big handful of dog hair from off the floor and stuffed it in Katie’s mouth.
“Oh come on now Katie,” chuckled Lisa as the girl started gagging on the hair, “I’m sure you’ve had worse things in your mouth!”
“PFFF… PFFFFFFFFFFT! You… You fuckin little bitch!” screamed Katie after managing to spit out most of the dog hair from her mouth. “I swear you’re gonna pay for that!”
“Oh relax. Believe me, when I get through shaving that head of yours, the last thing you’re gonna remember about tonight is having a little dog hair in your mouth.”
“You better not…”
“Shut up Katie!” sneered Lisa, grabbing a fistful of the girl’s hair and pulling Katie’s face to within inches of her own. “You’re leaving here tonight without your hair… that much is a fact. But how difficult I make it for you, well… that’s entirely up to you.”
Lisa didn’t see the wad of spit and dog hair coming at her until it was too late.
“Fine,” she said coldly after taking a moment to wipe the mess from her face using a towel she found in one of the counter drawers. Re-approaching Katie from behind – clutching a big pair of scissors she’d found in the same drawer – Lisa pushed the girl’s head forward, seized a thick hank of hair from the back of her head, and let loose the scissor blades upon it.
“…ckin little bi…”
“…goin to jail for thi…”
“I thought I told you to shut up!” seethed Lisa, yanking Katie’s head backward and finding the girl’s mouth with her hand.
“If you thought dog hair was bad, try feasting on this shit,” she screamed as she stuffed the freshly hacked locks into Katie’s mouth. Any question she may have had about whether she’d cut off enough to silence her captive was answered moments later, as Katie began retching on the wad of her own hair.
“That’s right, Honey… you get a good taste of that hair while you can, cuz when I get done with the rest of it, that just might be the fondest memory you ever have of it.”
Satisfied the girl could still breathe through her nose, Lisa pulled the chair back a couple feet from the big pile of dog hair she’d created when Katie was unconscious. Considering what she had planned for this little prima donna’s pampered locks, she needed Katie to have a good view.
Grabbing the electric dog shears and flicking them to life, Lisa wasted no time laying waste to Katie’s long, luxurious locks. Grabbing a handful of hair from off the crown, she pushed the clippers steadily up the right side of Katie’s head across the top and down the other side, using the hair clutched in her hand like to joystick to direct Katie’s head wherever she wanted.
“Whaddya say, Katie… feeling like a dog yet?” chuckled Lisa as she sheared another long path through the girl’s hair, this time from back to front. Turning the clippers off momentarily, she walked around to the front of the chair, enduring intense looks of hatred from her captive.
“You a religious girl, Katie?” she asked, barely able to contain her laughter, “Cuz you sure got a neat lookin’ cross on your head!”
Lisa watched delightedly as tears began trickling down Katie’s face. Gathering up the shorn locks that had fallen atop the girl’s legs and shoulders, she used them to dab at the moisture on Katie’s cheeks, then walked over to the huge pile dog hair on the floor.
“I don’t know, Katie… doesn’t look like these long, pampered locks of yours are any different from all that nasty dog hair you shaved off,” she teased, dropping Katie’s hair unceremoniously atop the pile and grinding it in with her foot. The affront to her hair seemed to bother Katie as much as the cutting of it did, for tears now streamed liberally down her cheeks.
“Aww… whatsa matter, Baby Doll? Is it hard getting all this hair of yours shorn from your head and tossed on the floor like it were garbage? Doncha just wish I’d be a bit more sensitive as I did it? Well, now I guess you know how the dogs feel, bitch, and why Dr. Newcomb should’ve hired me instead of you. You made a mistake taking the job here this summer, but don’t worry… it’s not a mistake you’re gonna make again.”
Closing her eyes, Katie could sense from the movement around her that Lisa had made her way back over to the counter, and to the clippers that – just moments from now – would shave the rest of her hair from her head. Feeling her head get pushed forward, she opened her eyes just in time to see the first long tendril waft down to her lap, followed soon by a thick and seemingly endless tangle of hair as Lisa raked the clippers over every inch of her scalp.
“Damn…,” commented Lisa sarcastically as she bent one of Katie’s ears forward to get at the few fuzzy strands hiding behind it, “turned out there’s nothing but a Chihuahua beneath that sheepdog everyone knew as Katie!”
Enjoying herself as she was, Lisa made a few gratuitous passes over Katie’s scalp with the clippers before turning them off for good. Standing back to survey the scene, she smiled when she saw that the piles of Katie’s hair now littering the floor were every bit as plentiful as those left by the dogs. For a moment she considered mixing the rest of it in with the dog hair, then thought of something better.
“Tell you what,” she said to Katie as she loaded all the girl’s hair into a plastic shopping bag and prepared to leave, “if I do end up going to Juvenile Hall for this, at least I’m gonna have these long, luscious locks of yours to keep me company at night.”